America, Europe and Standpoint
Sacred place: The Old City of Jerusalem (JFragments CC BY-SA 3.0)
The news of Donald Trump’s victory came for me during a visit to Jerusalem — one of the few places where the result was welcomed. The president-elect has not only promised a new era in US-Israeli relations, but shows every sign that he means it. He may even recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
My first reaction was to clear my head: I headed for the Old City and spent a few hours visiting the most sacred places of the three major monotheisms. The Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall were open to visitors of all faiths and none. The Haram al Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), as Muslims call the Temple Mount, was much more difficult of access. At the Dome of the Rock, one of the oldest Islamic monuments, a doorkeeper politely explained that only Muslims could be admitted — “for political reasons”. Is it conceivable that any other world religion would exclude visitors from other faiths?
Such a division of humanity into Muslims and the rest is not the doing of Donald Trump, but a choice made by the Islamic authorities. Since at least the 8th century, Islamic jurists have divided the world into the Dar al-Islam (“House of Islam”) and the Dar al-Harb (“House of War”), where infidels dwell. That division may now be reciprocated. Mr Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States caused offence even during a campaign that was fought on both sides by unfair means and foul ones. That ban would have to be carefully defined to accord with the US constitution, including the First Amendment’s prohibition on religious tests. But under the “plenary power doctrine” laid down by the Supreme Court Congress has absolute discretion in relation to immigration laws. It is clear, in any case, that by electing Mr Trump, Americans have rejected large-scale immigration, especially from Muslim countries.
In Brussels, the reaction to the prospect of a Trump presidency has played into the hands of American isolationists. Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission President, declared his support for “the goal of setting up a European army”, because “the Americans . . . will not ensure the security of the Europeans in the long term”. The EU High Representative Federica Mogherini called for Europe to become “a superpower that believes in multilateralism and co-operation”. Without the support of elected national leaders, such rhetoric is empty. But Angela Merkel, the most powerful of them, shares the distaste of the Brussels bureaucrats for Mr Trump. Her response to his election was an admonition to obey the rule of law and eschew discrimination. German leaders would be wise to avoid lecturing the Americans and British about principles that the Germans themselves, within living memory, trampled into human ashes. By contrast, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban described the US election as “a historic event in which Western civilisation appears to break free from the confines of an ideology”. The maverick Mr Orban, however, is the exception that proves the rule: nothing has united the European elites as much as their resistance to Brexit and Trump, which they see as two sides of the same forged coin.